A briskly paced action suspense that will keep audiences guessing until it’s final twist, the film offers drama in the Sherlock Holmes tradition. Beautifully filmed, and with a cast that includes some familiar faces of Chinese Cinema, this is a big budget genre film that is aimed at a popular audience.
Set in Shanghai and its outer provinces between the two world wars, a young factory worker is accused of stealing bullets from an arsenal factory. Proclaiming her innocence, she is put on trial by her employer, and is forced to shoot herself. Six months later a series of murders take place within the factory and its surrounding district. All the evidence of the murders lead back to the dead factory girl. While the crimes continue and the mystery deepens a local legend begins to resurface. The legend involves the remaining factory workers and the curse of “Stealing Bullets”. Investigating the case is district Inspector Gou (Nicholas Tse) who is teamed up with the newly arrived Inspector Bao (Ching-Wan Lau), an outsider who brings with him his own unique method of solving crimes. As the two men continue their investigation which takes them from the city opium dens, to the local police commander’s office a trail of greed and corruption makes itself known. As the victims continue to mount, the real mystery is just beginning to make itself apparent: just who is the real villain?
Chi-leung Lo’s most successful films in the past had been with the late and must missed Leslie Cheung which included 2000’s Double Tap and 2002’s Inner Senses. Since then he has produced a string of dramas in the same vein, but by all appearances not nearly as successful. The Bullet Vanishes is the director’s latest offering, and cinephiles could do a lot worse than investing time into this film.
Nicholas Tse and Ching-Wan Lau as Gou and Bao respectively have an interesting chemistry on screen. Instantly likable, Lau particularly appears to have made a sort of career out of playing these sorts of roles. Johnnie To’s 2007 film Mad Detective shows that this film is familiar territory for him. Nicholas Tse on the other hand is currently one of Hong Kong’s most popular young actors. These two appear to be very much modelled on Yun-Fat Chow, and Nicholas Tse is no different, but serves his purpose well in this case. Both of these actors in the same film make a particular interesting drawcard: the established character actor, and the rising new personality. Together they work with a very physical script that relies a lot on the timing of their performance to get the most out of what is taking place on screen, and they succeed perfectly. Of note is a supporting cast that included the reliable Liu-Kai Chi as a nasty villain named Ding and mainland actress Min Yang, as Guo’s love interest.
Produced by director Derek Yee and with a 12 million dollar budget, the results are there to be seen on the screen. The Bullet Vanishes, strangely enough, is a beautifully filmed drama which was shot by cinematographer Chi-Ying Chan. In this film, the viewer finds themselves looking at what is taking place on screen from the most particular places, so watch out for the surprises. Stylistically the camera work has more in common with Philippe Rousselet who worked with Guy Ritchie on the Sherlock Holmes films. Continuing the influence in this fashion are the action sequences director Nicki Li Chung Chi, and these are very well presented and at times very exciting.
The Bullet Vanishes is a great piece of entertainment. Running at 107 minutes, the narrative moves at a brisk pace that is never dull. Visually impressive, and always interesting to the eye, the story is satisfiying, and at times disturbing. While definitely not in the league of, for example, Chin-Po Wong’s recently reviewed 2010’s Revenge: A Love Story, Chi-Leung Lo’s film twists and turns at any given moment to keep the interest current, and is not afraid to take narrative risks when it’s called for to sustain the tension. If you spent $18 dollars for a ticket to see this film, it would be money well spent.
The Bullet Vanishes is in limited release around Australia on 30 August 2012 from China Lion at the following locations:
SYDNEY – Event Cinemas George St, Sydney – Event Cinemas Macquarie Megaplex – Event Cinemas Burwood – Greater Union Hurstville
MELBOURNE -Cinema Nova, Carlton
BRISBANE – Birch Carroll & Coyle Garden City Mt Gravatt
ADELAIDE – Palace Nova Eastend